Heading into WWDC 2013, Apple had a lot to prove. The company was still licking its wounds from the botched launch of Apple Maps in iOS 6, and complaints were growing about iOS’s increasingly stale design. Although at the time the iPhone was a proven success, iOS was starting to look outdated. Remember the notepad-like Notes app? Strange linen wallpaper behind notification center? The green background of the Game Center app? When compared to things like Microsoft’s very flat and, for now, very modern Windows Phone (RIP) system, I felt like iOS needed a makeover.
So it came as no surprise that on June 10th, 2013, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced what might turn out to be Apple’s most important iOS update ever: iOS 7. But he didn’t stay on stage, quickly ditching the spotlight on A video narrated by Apple’s then senior vice president of industrial design Jony Ive, who took over software design from ousted iOS-based Scott Forstell just months earlier.
“I believe there is a deep and lasting beauty in simplicity.”
“I think simplicity has a deep and enduring beauty. In clarity. In efficiency,” I said at the start of his video. “True simplicity derives from much more than the absence of clutter and ornament. It is about bringing order to complexity. iOS 7 is a clear representation of these goals.”
The video revealed a transformed operating system. iOS 7 will change the way just about everything looks, eschewing similar designs in favor of a more modern look. Many of these changes felt drastic for the time — and pushed too far in the direction of minimalism, blank space, and a digital-first design language — but much of what was introduced in this version still serves as the foundation for what we see on our iPhone today.
iOS 7 changes appeared immediately. The iPhone’s home screen was brighter, thanks in large part to Apple’s completely redesigned app icons that were flatter and filled the screen with vivid reds, greens, and blues. Apple has added transparency all over iOS to give the operating system a layered feel. Even the signal bars were re-evaluated and replaced with five circles.
The new design also felt less cluttered. Apple (initially) switched the font to Helvetica Neue Light, a much thinner typeface. This flat design and thin font carried over to Apple’s apps, which were changed to match the new aesthetic and to better support swipe gestures. And apps used a lot more white and empty space. “We’re totally out of green!” quipped Craig Federighi while presenting iOS 7 on stage.
The new design was not a hit from the jump. On the same day Apple revealed iOS 7, Joshua Topolsky, the edge the former editor-in-chief, who called the redesign “simply baffling” and criticized things like the design of many of the app icons (the word balloon “Messages” is so puffy and inflated compared to its cool blob that it looks like it’s going to fall over”) and how Apple has added strange new icons within apps (introduced iOS 7 design of the “strange box with an arrow pointing up” to share).
Apple listened to the complaints and made a few small changes between the OS’ June reveal and the September release, including updating the font to the sharper Helvetica Neue and making the battery and cell signal indicators larger on the lock screen. But the general design philosophy was still there, regardless of whether you liked it; When everyone got iOS 7 on their phones, they still saw the weird blobs that are now Game Center in some way.
I think David Pearce said it best in his review of iOS 7 in September 2013: “Apple is on a mission to convince buyers that it’s still relevant, it’s still innovative, and it’s still interesting. iOS 7 is full of big, sweeping changes to that effect, and there’s power to it.” Real at making something look fresh and bright, but in the end, the new visuals don’t offer much change under the surface. Not now anyway.”
That last line is important – because now we know how important that actually is. “Much of the criticism about iOS 7 has focused largely on its initial implementation: fonts are too skinny, icons are inconsistent, and uninterrupted animations take too long,” says Janome Trivedi, design engineer at The Browser Company. the edge. “But that’s to be expected of any new design language—baking takes time.”
While Apple has improved many elements of the way iOS looks over the years, the basic ideas generally remain. Apple app icons are still pretty flat. Apps still have a lot of white space and even some transparency, like in Safari and Messages. “Over the years, the design language has matured, and the new elements of iOS 7 are essential parts of every Apple design today: blur, transparency, liveliness, interactivity, animation, and depth,” says Trivedi.
It should not be forgotten that iOS 7 also introduced new features that have since become staples of iOS. The then-new Control Center felt revolutionary when it was added – finally, an easy way to turn on Airplane Mode! — and while it was a bit of a jumbled mess at first, it got a major redesign with iOS 10 and another with iOS 11 that turned it into the easy-to-use dashboard you might recognize today. iOS 7 added the AirDrop feature, which has become a very useful way to share things between Apple devices. The iOS 7 Camera app lets you switch between things like portrait, square photo, panorama, and video modes with a swipe, which you can still easily do with the app.
There is a growing desire for change and customization
After all this time, people feel itchy. Way more people are using the operating system now than in 2013, and there is a growing desire for change and customization. This may be why we’ve seen people jump through hoops to customize their iPhones and why Apple has given users some design control with iOS 16’s fancy lock screen widgets. And while Apple itself still largely avoids tarnishing, Recently, we’ve started to see some app creators like The Browser Company enjoying it again.
Maybe Apple played it also Recently secure with iOS design. “After a decade, I still can’t believe the iOS 7 design style is still there in new iOS versions,” says Enid Hadaj, an independent iOS developer. the edge. “Sometimes I can’t tell them apart because they are so similar.” But for the most part, it’s just iOS, so Apple probably doesn’t need to change the situation.
Concluding his intro video, I said something that sounded typical of an inspiring Apple: “Together, we see that iOS 7 sets an important new direction. And, in many ways, the beginning.” Ten years later, it turns out he was right.